Twenty Melbourne Painters Society

What: 102nd annual exhibition works by Twenty Melbourne Painters Society. When: 13 September to 30th of August 2020. Where: Click on each artist to view the whole exhibition.

An exhibition of artworks by the Twenty Melbourne Painters Society’s members. It is a love story of the splendour; the great outdoors and studio works. They pay homage to the founders through employing en plein air in the genres predominately in expressionism, tonalism and realism. The artworks are a feast for your eyes while witnessing respect for deep ecology.

All works are crafted with skill from of a lifetime of art practice such as Margaret Cowlings “Winter, Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne”, a work painted outside in winter deftly daubing light and shadow. What appears simple may have taken twenty years to achieve, for example Abbots “TreeForms and Wattle, Monsalvat” and John Orlando Birt’s watercolour “Winter Rubicon, Victoria” is an exacting work of tonalism. 

Unknown, I think, to the founders who created an invitation only process to be members has enabled a buffeting from storms of change. Isolated in a sense from the waves of painting genres for instance; symbolism, art nouveau, surrealism, social realism, postmodernism, and conceptualism. On saying this, Fiona Bilbrough “Priceless” is an impressionist conceptual work, while Jennifer Fyfe “Titan Pictures Presents”, marries realism, impressionism and graphic design breaking away from the mold to introduce the genre of conceptualism while remaining true to the founders.

Title: “Titan Pictures Presents”. Medium: Mixed media including oil on linen. Size: 55 x 75cm

Embedded in tradition the Twenty Melbourne Painters are quietly deeply radical. The artists are mainly “be here now’ painters. They are light catchers and diarists with camera shutter eyes, demanding a truthful account of what they see. Such as Raymond Hewitt’s “Smoke Haze” or Barbara McCallum’s “Pomegranates with Green Jug” both quite different light catchers.

Painting what they see in front of them and utilising ground pigments, oils, paper, and cloth all compostable, The Twenty Melbourne Painters, show respect for the natural environment and display a living embodiment of “act local think global” a deep ecology.


Angela Abbot’s whimsical glimpse of a landscape “TreeForms and Wattle, Monsalvat” the work is like and ending of a chapter you are wondering what will happen next. Abbot has successfully utilised the use of abstraction, tonalism and impressionism. The daubes of oil look almost haphazard relaxed however it is with a surgeon’s knife she cuts through the landscape.

Tilba Tilba the actual location holds a special spot in my psyche with its looming mountain Gulaga (nee Mount Dromedary) with its many strange tales, the spiritual home to Yuin people. In the Australian impressionist tradition of capturing the drenching glare; “Tilba Tilba”, a large watercolour, by Greg Allen is the light, oat-wheaten coloured folding mountains, with an impressive expanse. His deft hand at capturing light is outstanding.

This miniature oil painting applied with thick strokes “Priceless” by Fiona Bilbrough, an image of toilet paper. The shortage of toilet paper rolls at the beginning of the lockdown in Australia with COVID19 took on gargantuan proportions.  “Priceless” a historical documentation of toilet paper, it is rendered with loving care. This is example of contemporary concept bedded in tradition of tonal impressionism.

John Orlando Birt’s watercolour “Winter Rubicon, Victoria” is a beautiful tonal work conjuring a thousand stories. The use of soaked paper to get the result of the washed-out background, emphasises the sodden, wheel trodden marshy foreground, establishing Birt’s authority with his craft. 

Bill Caldwell’s “The Painting class” oil on linen takes you into the practice of studio painting. The internal scape is emphasized with an impressionists filtered light reflected on the concentrated studio artists faces as they hone their craft. Your eye follows the attention to detail highlighting the movement in the work.

“Winter, Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne” watercolour captures Margaret Cowlings’s skilled eye capturing a fragment of time and light in this en plein air work. This achieved through feeling the chill of winter with its charcoal black stretching shadows, bear trees and the possum guard giving the work a timeframe to the established Flagstaff gardens. The cool temperature of the work is redeemed with low angled sun giving a warmth with the use of yellow and ochre hues. Cowling is a mistress of her craft capturing light and documenting time with her deft handling of watercolour.

Stephen Doyle “Natives” oil on canvas, is a light filled flower study. Doyle uses his oil stroke like his watercolour stroke, this is quite rare. His egg shell white background and ochre lentil  give weight, place, context to the work. The contrast between the mishappen vases a blue ceramic pickle jar, a green glass beaker and old glass potion bottle all very colonial with the casual pickings’ native flora one in each container, a spiral eucalyptus, banksia and a Leucadendron. 

Jennifer Fyfe “Titan Pictures Presents” mixed media is a conceptual work. A classic impressionist portrait draws on her weekly three hour studio study at the Victorian Artists Society is combined with graphic imaginary of a vintage 1940 -1950’s movie or theatre poster. Both disciplines are executed with precision bring a complete concept to the viewer. Jennifer shows confidence and adroit ability to straddle a few art genres, realism, and graphic design, bringing together a cohesive whole.  

Raymond Hewitt “Smoke Haze” oil on board is an example of thick stroke tonalism to express those horrid bushfires that smothered the east coast of Australia for five months, no-one was immune. Like Turner from the more realistic early years Hewitt is moving into an almost abstract concept to represent the landscape. Its remarkably effective and immediate.

Amanda Hyatt’s “Southern Cross Station” a wet on wet oil painting. Wet on wet means you do not dry your work between layers it requires little footprint on the canvas, it is an existent work. The work has a limited pallet and tonal giving it a great sense of movement.

An impressionist portrait studio artist, Lee Machelak’s “Flower Girl” oil painting was executed outdoors, she was delighted in the experience. Machelak has an easy loose stoke to her work rendering the portrait in a more casual pose compared to the realists work like Paul Fitzgerald. Flower Girl is an expressive gentle work.

“Pomegranates with Green Jug” Barbara McCallum demonstrates the subtle brush stokes enhancing the tonal realist effect. The outstanding aspects of this painting is the brick, cement, and brass work. McCallum pays homage to simple common home objects highlighting the beautiful pomegranate with the use of rich cool tones. Is it depicting a shadowy outdoor spot or late afternoon in winter?

Paul McDonald Smith “Proteas and Fruit” oil on linen is a sumptuous feast laden table both European and Australian in flavour. A well composed studio work with the table at an angle giving more space to the table setting. The close paint strokes enhance the tonal work and the light is in the natural in flavour, is exquisite.

“Summer, Northern Victoria” by Ross Paterson, en plein air pastel is tonal and representational. “The choice of soft pastel as the medium was a very suitable one as it is very flexible and plastic – with strong colour overlays and divisionist strokes all part of the development and adjustments to make the painting work cohesively.” Paterson

“Winter light” a large watercolour by Herman Pekel utilizes a limited palette, tonal and realist to good effect. The work has a strong Australian bushland feel. Saplings on a gentle slope to somewhere misty cold, you can almost smell it. The depth of field is well executed.  I popped onto his website and noticed this work is a reoccurring theme maybe it’s his favourite private spot?

“Storm over Cape Schanck” en plein air watercolour by Clive Sinclair. Wet on Wet watercolour is where the sheet of paper is saturated before you start painting. There are a couple of schools in this technique. Sinclair employs immediate daubing once the water has been applied. Sinclair uses a few stokes to capture the light perfect application for this stormy day.

Its windy and wild at Red Bluff the size of the landscape is depicted by the smallness of the couple in the landscape. Peter Smales “Windy Day, Red Bluff” oil painting deploys thick easy brushstrokes to set the scene. It is tonal and expressionist in style.

David K Taylor “Light Phillip Island’ watercolour with this work you have a good sense of shade glare and the natural environment . “…Capturing the essence of the subject as a fleeting moment in time requires speed of hand to achieve the spontaneity I like to record…the light in its many guises and drama of fleeting impressions are important factors when I am viewing this special world that is ours to be a part of…”  Taylor’s website.

“The Narrows” Maxwell Wilks pastel paper on board.  “A summer view of the Australian landscape reflecting on the vast and dry and endless plain.” Wilks. The work is iconic, representational, and tonal impressionism with Tom Roberts similar use of colour such as in the work “Break away”. The Narrows is rich and deep in colour evoking summer and the vast landscape before us.

Joseph Zbukvic’s mixed media “Heading Out”. is “…a balance of harmony between tonal values, design, colour and mood that will visually evoke the emotions between the viewer and the painting. Watercolour, with its subtle and gentle effects is a perfect medium to achieve this.” Zbukvic website

Allow yourself the time to view the exhibition.

Reviewed by Conceptual artist Fern Smith – Enjoy the exhibition

Designing for a client is a journey

When an an artist and a potential client meet, its all yes we can do it 🙂 Once the process starts its extracting what the client visualises in their head. This is the longest part of the process. You may find you can’t work together that’s part of the process. However in most cases its explaining the first idea is usually not the last. It’s a process of finding the right colour and tone. The artist needs to instill confidence in the process and not hesitate. Once the design is achieved you then go onto the text, the font and the formats. It’s a journey

Make your own paint

This is a guide only – please play and create and make a big mess!

SIZING penetrates the weave of a canvas or the fibers of paper to create a barrier to assist the paint from seeping through the surface. Equipment: 1 small bowl or pot, a spoon and jar with lid.

Ingredients: 1/4 teaspoon of gelatine, one cup of hot water, one drop of essential oil.

Method: Place gelatine in the bowl or pot and pour in hot water. Stir until dissolved and add a drop of essential oil.

Store: Pour into Jar and store, gelatine jells slowly add warm water to liquify.

Best results apply the same day as prepared and warm. Tape sides of paper while drying as there is shrinkage.

GESSO is traditionally used to prepare wooden panels, paper and canvas to add “tooth” enabling the paint to grab to the surface.

Equipment: 1 small bowl, a spoon Ingredients: I cup of warm sizing liquid, 1/2 teaspoon of honey and whiting

Method: Place sizing liquid in the bowl pour in whiting until it resembles the consistency of cream add water if need be. Stir until there are no lumps and even, if let to sit stir again.

Apply immediately does not store. Apply warm to your surface with one to two coats. If applying two coats brush each coat in opposite directions.

Applying sizing and gesso to your surface is optional.

BINDERS are what hold the pigments in suspension. There are many recipes, this recipe is made from traditional methods and food grade materials. Gum Arabic, honey, and essential oil (i.e. lavender, clove or eucalyptus for mould prevention).

Equipment: 1 small bowl, 1 tea cup, eye dropper, 1 small flexible spatula or flexible knife or spoon and small jar with lid.

Ingredients: 1 flat teaspoon of gum Arabic, one cup of warm water, half teaspoon of honey and one drop of essential oil.

Method: Mix Gum Arabic in a tablespoon of the warm water until dissolved using a flexible small spatular. The mixture goes lumpy, squeeze the lumps against the side of the bowl until dissolved, add honey, add essential oil and add the rest of the warm water, mix thoroughly.

Store: Pour into a sterile jar and store a

refrigerator, may need to add a little warm

WATERCOLOUR is as old as the worn hills of Australia, indigenous people have been using watercolour for at least 40,000 years. This watercolour recipe originates in Northern Germany during the 1400’s.

Equipment: Mortar and pestle, eye dropper, small flexible spatula or flexible knife and a suitable storage container i.e. a jar with lid.

Ingredients: 1 teaspoon pigment, 1/8 teaspoon honey and water based binder.

Method: Place dry pigment into the mortar and make an indentation in the middle. With the eye dropper full of binder, mix binder to pigment drop by drop until a smooth paste is formed. If a little lumpy use the pestle to grind the paste. To make the watercolour more flexible add honey. Blend thoroughly until a smooth firm paste. If a little lumpy use the pestle to grind the paste. Scoop up and place in a

suitable container and let dry. To paint, wet brush and mix with watercolour.

Store: In an air tight jar for up to a year.

GOUACHE dates back to Egyptian times when a chalk was added to watercolour to increase its opacity (less see through). “Whiting”- Calcium carbonate has been traditionally used in southern Italy.

Equipment: Mortar and pestle, eye dropper, small flexible spatula or flexible knife and a air tight jar.

Ingredients: 1 teaspoon of pigment, 1/4 teaspoon whiting, 1/8 teaspoon honey and water based binder.

Method: Into the mortar place dry pigment and whiting, mix well. Make an indentation in the middle. With the eye dropper full of binder, mix binder to pigment drop by drop until a smooth paste is formed. If a little lumpy use the pestle to grind the paste. To make the gouache more flexible add honey and blend thoroughly until a smooth firm paste. Scoop up and place in a jar and let dry. To paint, wet brush and mix with gouache.

Store: In an airtight jar

*Remember all fine powders are hazardous in their preparation for use wear a face mask, disposable gloves and glasses while preparing dry ingredients*

OIL PAINT  – the type you use is of utmost importance if you don’t want your work to yellow or crack. I use sun drenched linseed oil. You stand the good quality art store linseed oil a sunny window sill in a jar with a cloth over the top until the oil thickens and becomes light in colour. When thicker like liquid glucose put lid on to keep (other oils you can use are sunflower oil, poppy seed oil)

Equipment: Mortar and pestle, eye dropper, small flexible spatula or flexible knife and a suitable storage container i.e. a jar with lid.

Ingredients: pigment, oil – thin with lavender or eucalyptus oil –

Method: Place dry pigment into the mortar and make an indentation in the middle. With the eye dropper full of binder, mix oil to pigment drop by drop until a smooth paste is formed. If a little lumpy use the pestle to grind the paste. Blend thoroughly until a smooth firm paste. Scoop up and place in a suitable container. Thin with lavender oil. (if too thin paint will crack)

Store: In an air tight jar

The longevity is dependant on how sterile, humidity – if animal ingredients are used ie gelatine store in fridge

Source the Artists Handbook by Pip Seymour Pub: Arcturus 2003

Green Guide for artists by Karen Michel Pub: Quarry 2009